The history of chocolate, who invented some of the world's finest chocolate? We will answer these questions and many more. I for one never realized the long history of chocolate.
Many people wonder about the history and origins of chocolate. Here's what we have learned to date.
Chocolate refers to a number of raw and processed foods which are produced from the seed of the cacao tree. This tree is native to the lowland, tropical regions of central and south America.
The name “chocolate” likely comes from the word “xocolatl” which is Nahuatl for “bitter water”. Xocolatl was a spicy, fermented drink mixed with a variety of flavors such as vanilla or chili pepper. Maize gruel was sometimes added as an emulsifier; honey for sweetening. The cacao seeds have a strong bitter taste and must be fermented to bring out the flavor.
We know that cacao has been cultivated for more than three thousand years as archaeologists have found chocolate residue in jars in Honduras dating from around 1100 BC. This is the earliest known evidence, so far, of the use of cacao.
Some central American archaeological finds are containers marked with the Mayan glyph for cacao with a residue of a chocolate drink. It is thought that this chocolate drink was somehow associated with the Mayan fertility god.
Cacao beans may have been used as a standard of exchange or currency. The beans could be exchanged for other types of food. The Aztecs placed such a high value on cacao that tribes conquered by the Aztecs were required to pay a tax or “tribute” in the form of cacao beans from their groves. We know that cacao trees have been purposely cultivated as groves of cacao trees have been unearthed in El Salvador preserved in volcanic ash.
Cacao beans first made their way to Europe when Christopher Columbus brought some back with him for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, however, its use was more widely spread throughout Europe by Spanish friars. Chocolate became a royal favorite after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs when it was more readily imported to Europe. At that time it was still used in its liquid form, although, Europeans added milk and sugar for sweetness and exchanged the Mexican spice, vanilla, for the chili pepper.
Due to the expense of importing chocolate from the Americas, it was considered a luxury item for quite some time and was only used in the homes of European nobility. It wasn't until late in the 17th century that chocolate was introduced into England. A milk chocolate drink was developed in 1689 in Jamaica by physician, Hans Sloane. This drink was first used by apothecaries, but later was sold to the Cadbury brothers.
The chocolate making process had remained unchanged for hundreds of years until the Industrial Revolution brought with it many changes including mechanical mills. These mills allowed the cocoa butter to be squeezed out of the cacao beans which in turn allowed for the development of a solid form of chocolate to be produced.
These mills were eventually advertised as a new invention to manufacture chocolate. Once newer machines were produced, people of all classes worldwide were able to experience and enjoy chocolate in both liquid and solid forms. Today, chocolate is a favorite the world over. Whether in solid or liquid form, covering crème, fruit or nut filling or any number of other uses, we seem to never have enough of it. Some have even found a way to make it healthy rather than as just a sweet treat craved by millions.
Thanks to Wikipedia for their extensive research into the history of chocolate; this wonderful, tasty confection which we can't seem to do without.